Word Up

Photo CC Licensed: JulieJordanScott via Flickr

“Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through; first from him, now from you!” – Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady

Yesterday I got an email from Chris Brogan. He reminded me (ok, and about a zillion other email list subscribers) that the time has come for the Three Words. Roughly speaking, they are supposed to be the words that describe the themes you want to focus on for the upcoming year. He’s been doing this for years, and occasionally I’ve tried it as well – “Beauty. Grace. Passion.” was a pretty interesting year, for example. And as you’ll see from the title of this blog, I’m a big fan of the triplet.

I was extra excited when I saw that one of his words for 2012 is going to be Practice. Hey, Chris, have I got a blog for you! He’s written a lot of neat posts about the idea, but in this case he says “And by that, I mean to honor this sentiment: “the practice is the reward.” He has some interesting ideas on how to do that, with weekly, monthly, and yearly challenges and goals.


The problem with coming up with three words to try and sum up your principles and direction for the entire next year is one of accuracy. For example, one of the words I thought of using was “money“. That’s kind of a shallow goal, though, right? Besides, I really don’t have any problem making money; it’s my general relationship with it, one of antagonism and scarcity, that is the problem. After some thought, I decided that “abundance” would be a better word.

Abundance? If you’re like me, hearing that word set off the WooWoo alarms in your head. What does that even mean? It’s slapped on so many different things these days that it can mean everything from the plushiness of toilet paper to the divine grace of the Lord and Savior. If money is too broad, then abundance is too…abundant. Amorphous. Imprecise.

And if I’m having that much trouble with one word, how the hell am I supposed to come up with three? That will last the whole year?

Letting It Be OK

The answer is to remember one of the wisest things a friend ever said to me: you can change your mind. It’s ok to use the word “abundance” as long as I know what I mean by it, because this is my guiding word. I’m the only one who needs to understand it. If I find a better word later on that better expresses my intention, I can use it. If I find that my pursuit of abundance is not working well for me (hey, it could happen) I can always decide on something less , like monster trucks.

I think some of the time we avoid these kinds of exercises – goalsetting, guiding words, any kind of long-term planning – simply because we worry about failure. We worry about letting ourselves down, about saying to a friend “I’m going to lose weight!” and then feeling like we’ve let them down when we’re sharing their birthday cake. For some reason, we seem to think we can foresee what is going to come in the next year, what we and those we love are going to need.

Guess what? We can’t. It’s like telling an early explorer “Hey – draw me a map of that place you’re heading towards. I want to know what’s there, so I know what to expect.” How accurate is that going to be? What you can do is look at where you’ve been, look at where you might go, and express an intention. I intend to cultivate an attitude of abundance – the idea that there are plenty of resources available to me to live a wonderful life. I may do that in ways that look goofy, like throwing my pocket change on the floor, but that’s ok: this is my life, I get to do goofy things with it. So do you.

In case you’re wondering, I’m considering music and practice as my other two (the one because it’s been conspicuously absent in the past year and the other just as a reminder).

What words speak to you?

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